AI claims top spot by far in annual survey of what excites hospital executives

Artificial intelligence soared to the top spot in an annual survey that measures what emerging technology excites hospital executives as having the potential to transform the industry.

The Center for Connected Medicine’s (CCM's) annual “Top of Mind for Top Health Systems” survey said that “while AI has ranked highly in past Top of Mind surveys, it was overwhelmingly cited in 2023 as the most exciting emerging technology, and it displaced virtual care as the technology seeing the most progress.”

While 63 of 79 respondents in the CCM white paper (PDF) listed AI as the most exciting emerging technology in healthcare, the second place finisher—integration/interoperability—wound up with six votes, and third place—genomics/precision medicine—with five.

“While use cases for data science solutions have mostly focused on clinical problems, health systems increasingly see AI as a tool that can also improve operational, financial, and efficiency-related challenges,” the white paper said. “Many healthcare leaders believe these types of technologies could help their health systems become more efficient and effective.”

Respondents also called AI the most improved technology, and that will likely lead to more adoption, according to the white paper. That’s not to say the virtual care or telehealth category has completely lost its luster. While 22 respondents called AI the most improved, 19 voted for virtual care and telehealth, which respondents say has become easier to use. “Many organizations are currently looking at how to expand their use cases, simplify their technology stack by reducing the number of vendors used, and improve integration,” the white paper states.

Executives see AI enhancing other technology, such as electronic medical records. Respondents pointed to the partnership between Epic and Microsoft to integrate generative AI in EHRs, and the white paper points to the fact that Epic customers being able to access 10 free modules underscores AI’s growing accessibility. 

“Adoption of AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities has also increased, with more solutions incorporating these types of functionalities—for example, in imaging software,” the white paper states. “While interest in AI and NLP has been high for a few years, the ultimate effectiveness will be measured more by breadth of adoption and whether the technology drives health systems’ desired outcomes.”

CCM, affiliated with UPMC, conducted the survey with KLAS Research, a healthcare-focused research company. The 80 hospital executives were asked three questions:

  • What do you see as the most exciting emerging technology in the next two years?
  • What area of healthcare technology has seen the greatest progress or improvement in the last two years?
  • What problem in healthcare has the greatest potential to be improved with digital health technology and innovation?

A few respondents expressed hope that the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement will make it easier for different healthcare silos to share information, though they want to see more collaboration between EHR vendors and provider organizations. They also see potential in remote patient monitoring if it can be integrated with EHRs. “Most organizations using RPM have tested it in small pilots and are seeing promising outcomes,” the white paper said. “Organizations with at-risk value-based contracts are more likely to realize return on investment from the use of RPM, specifically by preventing adverse events.”

Technology wasn’t the only category to see some reshuffling from prior years. In the two prior surveys in the last two years, patient access topped the list of problems executives would like new technology to tackle. This year, patient care came in first, possibly because patient access became less of a problem with the end of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.  

They also hope technology can help alleviate provider burnout, easing administrative burdens to allow more focus on patients. “Software solutions that health care executives expect will help address staffing challenges include patient self-scheduling, IT task automations, scheduling platforms, revenue cycle automation, ambient speech recognition software, release of information solutions, RPM platforms, and EHR optimization/automation tools,” the white paper states.